UFC

Georges St-Pierre Leaving and the Biggest MMA Stories of 2013

Kyle SymesCorrespondent IIIJanuary 13, 2014

Georges St-Pierre Leaving and the Biggest MMA Stories of 2013

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    2013 was a crazy year inside the cage but was perhaps just as crazy outside it as well. MMA fans had plenty to discuss across the year as headlines rose up for both good and bad reasons.

    Among the year’s most prominent storylines were Georges St-Pierre stepping away from the sport, Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman’s two fights and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). These and others caused MMA forums to light up with all kinds of banter between fans.

    A few stories stood out from others, but here are the ones that were the most discussed among MMA journalists and fans.

Eddie Alvarez Gets Sued by Bellator, UFC Contract on Hold

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    The year in MMA got off to an ugly start when Eddie Alvarez let it be known that he was being sued by Bellator MMA, his former employer. The promotion attempted to match the contract offered to Alvarez by the UFC, which Bellator surely couldn’t manage to do.

    The process went through the legal system and put a black eye on Bellator and Bjorn Rebney as well. It also continued to cast a negative light on Bellator contracts, which had been prevalent with Hector Lombard’s career.

    Alvarez eventually settled to return to Bellator and went to win the Bellator lightweight title from Michael Chandler. The UFC took a much more cautious stance when Ben Askren became available, and it’s possible it will continue to stay away from signing guys immediately after their Bellator contracts are up.

The Fallon Fox Debate

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    Although UFC champ Ronda Rousey is often regarded as the most disliked woman in women’s MMA, one other name seems to be even more disdained.

    That name is Fallon Fox. The transgender fighter found her MMA career under a microscope in 2013 despite having less than five professional fights to her record.

    MMA websites saw their comments section flare up with opinions that ranged from professional to the downright ignorant. Even UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione got in on the action.

    The arguments over Fox competing in the women’s division initially focused on the thought of an unfair advantage but eventually became an argument of morals and beliefs.

    Fortunately for many MMA fans, the Fox story seems to have gone away for the time being, following her defeat at the hands of Ashlee Evans-Smith.

UFC Code of Conduct

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    One of the reasons why MMA is so popular is that fans can interact with their favorite fighters. Most people are only 140 characters away from communicating with them on Twitter. As a result, fighters can interact with not only journalists but everyday viewers as well.

    Of course, that can also lead to some disastrous moments, and 2013 showed the dark side of fighters being so readily available for comment. In the wake of Forrest GriffinRashad Evans and Miguel Torres all making less than intelligent statements, the UFC implemented a UFC Code of Conduct for its fighters.

    When Matt Hughes was made the vice president of athlete development and government relations, it became clear that MMA fighters were going to be held to a higher standard in 2013. Nate Diaz was suspended for a tweet, and Matt Mitrione had to sit out for remarks he made.

    The days that fighters could say whatever they wish with no repercussions are gone.

    With the UFC-Fox partnership in full effect, Dana White and the UFC were looking to make the sport look as professional as possible to the mass of casual fans tuning in. However, whether the UFC truly made strides in maintaining a code of conduct is an open debate at this point.

Bellator and Spike TV

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    Bellator’s move to Spike TV had the makings of success for both the network and the promotion. Fans had seen how eager Spike TV was to promote the UFC when it was first coming up and would likely try to emulate the prior success. Bellator, meanwhile, finally had a major cable outlet to get exposure for the fighters on the roster as well as the brand.

    The first show got off to a great start by drawing an average of 938,000 viewers, which was far better than anything the promotion had done before. With Bellator’s The Ultimate Fighter-clone Fight Master: Bellator MMA, Spike TV looked to keep Bellator and MMA fresh on the minds of fans throughout the layoff between Bellator events.

    Bellator events fluctuated throughout the season depending on the star power, but the exposure from being on Spike TV has been a plus for the promotion. The ability to be seen on national television has only furthered Bellator’s negotiating power when looking for new talent.

UFC Again Struggles on the East Coast

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    The UFC once again struggled to get MMA legalized in New York state in 2013. This is still a problem due to the Las Vegas Culinary Union, which has become a major thorn in the side of the UFC in its attempts to make MMA legal in The Empire State.

    Lorenzo Fertitta slammed the union’s claims that MMA is anti-woman and leads to domestic violence, but alas MMA in N.Y. was a lost cause this past year.

    New York wasn’t the only area that the UFC found adversity in when visiting the East Coast in 2013. The UFC made a second trip to Boston but encountered resistance from city council president Steve Murphy. A ban on minors attending MMA events without an adult likely won’t cause a great dent in the UFC’s profit margin, but it represents another hassle and headache for the promotion.

    Fight fans have to be feeling a bit jaded at this point with MMA and New York. It’s been something of a white whale for the UFC thus far, considering it has made little progress in getting the sport legalized there.

The Fall of Alistair Overeem

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Alistair Overeem entered the UFC as one of the premier fighters who had never taken a step inside the Octagon. He had competed overseas and had limited appearances in Strikeforce, building up a reputation among hardcore MMA fans. There was no denying that he was a physical specimen who had dangerous striking skills to boot.

    What were in question were his testosterone levels and PED use. The world finally got an answer in 2012 when Overeem tested for an absurdly high testosterone ratio. He would return at UFC 156 to face Antonio Silva and shockingly (read: sarcasm) had “dangerously low” levels of testosterone following the loss.

    The PED and testosterone talk aside, 2013 was an awful year for Overeem, as it saw him go from being in the heavyweight elite to having to compete for his UFC roster spot in 2014. He was overly confident in his contest with Silva at UFC 156 and paid for it dearly by being knocked out in the third round.

    Then, Overeem had Travis Browne turtled up against the fence and likely should have been awarded a victory, but he gassed after hitting Browne with everything but the kitchen sink. Browne nailed Overeem with a snapping kick to the face, and Overeem crumpled to the canvas.

    He will now be competing for his UFC career against Frank Mir at UFC 169 on Feb. 1.

Vitor Belfort and 'Hiding' in Brazil

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    Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Vitor Belfort has not only become the face of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in MMA, but he’s also become one of the more disliked fighters among MMA fans. It’s not because he kicks babies or doesn’t like kitten pictures on Google; it’s because fans believe the UFC is “hiding” the Brazilian from the much stricter athletic commissions in the United States.

    Both Dana White and Belfort have been adamant that the reason he competes in Brazil is due to his drawing power in his home country, not because of any PED scandal.

    Damon Martin also made it clear that the UFC is simply giving Brazilian TV markets what they want by having Belfort compete in Brazil.

    Regardless of White and the UFC’s denial, it’s become a lightning rod of negativity. Belfort has competed in Brazil almost exclusively since his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 126. Coincidentally, that’s also when Belfort allegedly began using the highly controversial medical treatment of TRT.

    It seems this criticism may come to an end if Belfort is to face Chris Weidman, as the UFC middleweight champion and his camp are concerned about the Brazilian's TRT use. There’s also the nearly universal thought that Belfort vs. Weidman will go down either Memorial Day Weekend or sometime this summer in Las Vegas.

    Keith Kizer hasn’t been the most optimistic about Belfort getting clearance for TRT, but he did provide a method for the Brazilian to continue his TRT use for a potential title showdown.

    It remains to be seen if Belfort will continue to fight in Brazil, or if he’ll make the long-awaited return to the United States in 2014.

Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman I and II

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    Although Anderson Silva had struggled to become a pay-per-view draw for the UFC, every MMA fan tuned in to witness one of the greatest fighters of all time meet the American challenger Chris Weidman.

    Like watching a classic Mike Tyson fight, fans knew they were going to witness a beautiful display of annihilation.

    At UFC 162, fans expected Silva to bring the destruction, but they instead witnessed the fall of a champion. The Brazilian engaged in his usual manner of taunting, attempting to get inside the head of Weidman. Instead of allowing Silva to win the mental game, Weidman remained focus and landed a left hook that sent Silva spiraling to the canvas.

    Weidman followed his opponent to the ground, and the fight was quickly stopped. Silva had lost the title and with it, his aura of invincibility.

    “The Spider” sounded like he was heading for retirement but quickly changed his tune to “I back” and was ready to face Weidman in a rematch. The fight took place at UFC 168 in one of the biggest cards of 2013.

    The lead-up focused on fans claiming that Weidman simply got lucky or that Silva wouldn’t have lost if not for the taunting. Those claims were put to rest at UFC 168.

    Weidman soundly beat Silva in the first round of the rematch and even knocked him down. In the second round, he checked a kick, and Silva collapsed to the canvas in a heap of pain. A broken leg would spell the end of the fight and quite possibly Silva’s career.

    Fans have argued for both sides, with those claiming Weidman as the true middleweight champion seemingly growing in number by the day. There’s still doubt among some fans, but the fact remains that Weidman is the UFC middleweight champ and will be a focal point for the UFC hype machine moving forward.

    The two fights with Silva set the MMA world on fire, as the story had so many angles to discuss.

    Did Silva finally get what was coming to him for taunting? Was he finally showing signs of decline? Is Weidman really that good? Will Silva come back?

    Those are just some of the questions that helped make Silva vs. Weidman one of the biggest stories of 2013.

Anthony Pettis

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    Anthony Pettis didn’t have the easiest route of reaching the mountaintop.

    He was supposed to receive a title shot after defeating Benson Henderson at the last WEC show, but those plans were put on hold as Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar were engaged in a tense rivalry. He then would go on to lose to Clay Guida in his UFC debut.

    It would be the last loss for Pettis thus far into his UFC career, as the former WEC champion rattled off three straight wins to earn a title shot in 2013.

    Only Pettis didn't initially request a title fight in the lightweight division. Rather, he craved a showdown with Jose Aldo at UFC 163.

    MMA fans were anticipating Aldo vs. Pettis not only because it was a fight between two of the top-ranked guys in their respective divisions but represented the first true superfight since Georges St-Pierre faced BJ Penn for the second time.

    All the discussions about the fight fell to pieces, however, as Pettis backed out due to an injury. However, the injury was considered minor, and Pettis jumped back into the lightweight title picture after TJ Grant’s injury.

    Now the talk of Pettis shifted from a superfight with Aldo to a showdown with his rival from the WEC. Pettis was the last man to defeat Henderson, and both competitors had improved since their meeting at WEC 53.

    Pettis would go on to win the belt in his hometown of Milwaukee with a stunning first-round submission. Fans who picked Pettis to win figured the challenger would use his vast array of strikes, not anything to do with grappling.

    Following the win at UFC 164, both fans and journalist alike were ready to see an exciting fighter like Pettis defend his title. However, as so often in his career, Pettis suffered another injury and will be sidelined for a considerable amount of time.

    Many fans were elated to see him claim a belt, but now they have to suffer through only seeing highlights of the man as they await his return in 2014.

Strikeforce Finally Closes Its Doors

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    The UFC is the king of MMA; that much is certain. What has not always been certain is who holds the rank of second best. For years, Strikeforce and Bellator jockeyed for position to lay claim to the best promotion outside of the UFC.

    That all changed in 2011, when Zuffa purchased Strikeforce. Although Strikeforce remained open for business, the writing was on the wall.

    Strikeforce would confirm that the Jan. 12, 2013 event would be the last for the promotion. Fans were quick to discuss possible matches for fighters who would be crossing over. Guys like Gilbert Melendez and Daniel Cormier were among two of the more discussed fighters.

    Also on the table were Strikeforce’s women’s divisions and what would happen with them. The UFC did not carry a women’s division at the time, and Dana White was opposed to the idea. Of course Ronda Rousey changed all that, and the rest is history.

    Strikeforce may have always been a second-tier promotion, but with its doors closing, we began to reminisce on some of the fonder memories of the promotion. Scott Coker had brought the promotion a long way from the days of holding events primarily in San Jose to becoming a major player in the MMA market.

    Fans and journalist were not always in agreement over the validity of Strikeforce and its fighters, but we all agree that the promotion put on quite a few fun fights to watch.

    If only the interest from Strikeforce closing had been generated while the promotion was still in business, it may have avoided being shut down for good.

Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami Cuts Signify an End to 'The Grinder'

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    If UFC fighters learned one thing in 2013, it’s that it pays to be exciting. Just ask Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami.

    The two have been perennial Top 10 fighters throughout most of their UFC careers (and were ranked so upon their releases), but both saw the UFC chopping block after suffering a single loss.

    Both men had earned a title shot in their divisions and came up well short of the mark against the champions. Since the losses, both were condemned to being nothing more than high-level gatekeepers.

    Not only that, but both men were lacking when it came to putting on exciting fights. Fitch and Okami featured grinding styles that saw them claim many victories inside the cage but made few friends outside it.

    With the UFC moving to a much broader audience, the product that Fitch and Okami were selling wasn’t worth the cost. The promotion cut ties with them, and both have now found a home in World Series of Fighting.

    Fitch would lose in stunning fashion to Josh Burkman at WSOF 3 but picked up a split-decision win at WSOF 6. Okami meanwhile figures to play an important role in the WSOF’s attempt to reach a global audience, and he will debut sometime in 2014.

    The two releases sent shock waves through the MMA community because they seemingly came out of nowhere. Although both guys were held in high regard by fans and journalists, everyone eventually agreed that the UFC is in the business of making money. As a result, the “grinder style” is being phased out of the Octagon.

Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva and The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil began as an intriguing prospect, given the amount of talent in Brazil along with adding some “freshness” to a stale TV series. That quickly wore off, however, and TUF: Brazil is no longer an Internet darling.

    That all figures to change with Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva as opposing coaches of the upcoming season. Sonnen and Silva are no strangers to each other, but their mutual dislike reached a fever pitch in 2013.

    The war of words culminated in a series of videos released by Silva that made you either laugh or put you on the edge of your seat asking for more. Silva released a video in which he spoke into the camera about how he wanted to cause as much physical harm as possible to Sonnen.

    Then, there was the staged/not staged altercation between the two at the Mr. Olympia Expo in Las Vegas. Sonnen responded with his usual wit, and the two engaged in a verbal spat throughout 2013.

    Although the they failed to reach an agreement to fight in 2013 due to Silva’s injury and refusal to fight without getting pay-per-view “points,” the rivalry is anew and should carry over into 2014 until the two men face each other.

    Fans can be sure that more bantering will continue throughout the filming of TUF 3 and in the lead-up to Silva vs. Sonnen in 2014.

Bellator and the Failed Attempt at Pay-Per-View

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    Bellator’s failed attempt at putting on a pay-per-view is a microcosm of the promotion's year in 2013.

    The promotion started off with grand ideas, but eventually it all fell apart yet somehow still managed to work out.

    The idea got off to a semi-good start when it was widely suspected that newly signed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson would face Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match under the Bellator banner. Those plans fell through, however, or as “Rampage” put it: “Tito f***** all that up.”

    What Rampage referred to was the curveball thrown by Bellator to MMA fans when it announced Tito Ortiz as Jackson’s opponent for the first Bellator PPV. The fight featured the two biggest names in Bellator but was years too late for most MMA fans to care.

    Then came word of what the show would actually cost, which wasn’t far off from what an UFC event cost at the time. Bellator attempted to load up the show with title fights, but with fans previously able to see those fighters for free, what was their incentive to fork over har- earned money to buy the show?

    Eventually the show fell apart when Ortiz pulled out of the fight, and Bellator was forced to make the event a free card on Spike TV.

    Despite the card featuring a trio of title fights, it was always destined for failure as a pay-per-view. It was a good move for the promotion to remove the price tag and offer many of its best fighters to a national audience.

    The event became the most-watched card in Bellator’s history. It also featured a Fight of the Year candidate when Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez put on a show for the evening’s main event.

    From initial discussions of how a Rampage vs. Ortiz matchup wasn’t worth paying for to the aftermath of Alvarez vs. Chandler II, Bellator’s failed attempt at hosting a PPV became one of the most talked-about items in 2013 for both good and bad reasons.

Nick Diaz and UFC 158

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    Nick Diaz is an enigma in the MMA world. Some fans like him, while even more despise him. Yet everyone seems glued to the TV (or computer screen) when he’s speaking.

    His rant during the UFC 158 conference call provided the world a glimpse into his world. The Stockton bad boy carried the weight of promoting his fight with Georges St-Pierre (when Diaz was around) and even managed to make the normally monotone GSP share some dark parts of his personality.

    Diaz would of course get smoked (see what I did there?) in his contest with GSP, but that didn’t stop the Nick Diaz Show from going on. Following the fight, he revealed that he has never paid taxes in his life and tweeted what appeared to be him being arrested (he wasn’t).

    Things got even more convoluted when a video surfaced that made it seem as if the rules for weigh-ins were being tossed out the window. You can see the timeline of events here.

    Diaz is enough of an anomaly to warrant media attention on his own. But when you add in the sport’s biggest star in GSP, the story was bound to hog up media headlines for as long as the UFC could push it. The lead-up to UFC 158 helped get the ball rolling, and the fallout only pushed the Diaz vs. GSP storyline further along.

Lloyd Irvin Saga

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    One of the darker stories in the MMA world in 2013 was the culmination of the Lloyd Irvin saga. For those who might have missed the story, Bloody Elbow did a great job covering the story, and Jake Rossen of the Miami New Times featured an extensive look into the “cult of Lloyd Irvin.”

    The stories that emerged from not only the incident with Irvin’s two students but those of Irvin were atrocious. Although Irvin may not have any marks against him on his personal record, his reputation has forever been tarnished by the details that emerged in 2013.

    MMA fans were both horrified and confused as to how these details remain submerged in-house for so long. But after reading Rossen’s piece, it’s easy to see that many fell under Irvin’s spell and chose to remain engrossed in the “Team Irvin lifestyle.”

    Matthew Maldonado and Nicholas Schultz—the two Irvin students charged with rapewere able to avoid convictions on most of the charges, but some remain. Dominick Cruz and Brandon Vera (along with the Alliance Training Center) have cut ties with the jiu-jitsu instructor, and Irvin’s affiliate program is no more.

Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar Inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame

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    Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar had, in the minds of many people, the single most influential fight in MMA history. Their clash at the finale for the original The Ultimate Fighter show sparked a boom in business for the UFC and MMA as a whole.

    The two men’s careers would split in separate directions following the bout, with Bonnar struggling to maintain relevancy and Griffin winning the UFC light heavyweight title.

    With both men’s careers winding down and retirement the only course of action, Griffin and Bonnar were inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013.

    The UFC Hall of Fame (UFC HOF) has long been a contentious topic for MMA fans. It’s filled with a handful of all-time greats but excludes a number of guys who were effectively blacklisted by their anti-UFC opinions, such as Frank Shamrock.

    With the induction of both Griffin and Bonnar, fans began to discuss the legitimacy of the UFC HOF. Bonnar has been popped for PEDs on multiple occasions during his tenure and sports a 15-8 overall MMA record.

    Griffin possesses only a 19-7 record and failed to defend the UFC title after defeating Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 86.

    The UFC obviously chose to induct both men for their clash at the TUF 1 finale, and nobody can deny the significance of that fight. But to stay that Griffin and Bonnar are on the same level as guys like Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell or Matt Hughes is preposterous.

    That’s where the discussion seemed to evolve from with fans. It became more ammo for the anti-Dana White crowd, while others felt apathetic to the situation. After all, the UFC should be able to do what it wants with its HOF. It also means we don’t have to agree with its choices.

The UFC Introduces UFC Fight Pass

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    When MMA was still in the dark ages, fans would have to scramble to a keyboard or pop in a VHS tape to watch their favorite fighters. As such, MMA fans are no strangers to the way of the Internet and streaming video.

    As a result, the UFC, ample to take advantage of a fanbase with knowledge of technology, introduced the UFC Fight Pass to MMA fans in 2013.

    The service will not only air international UFC Fight Night cards but also feature an extensive library of fights. Virtually any company the UFC has bought will be featured. This means fans can relive the “Pride will never die!” days or watch some EliteXC, if they're in need for a good laugh or two.

    When the UFC Fight Pass was first introduced, MMA sites were filled with questions surrounding what the service would feature. The most prominent question being: What’s the cost?

    A price of $9.99 a month isn’t a lot of money, and despite many of the international fight cards lacking star power, access to the UFC video vault is enough to warrant fans handing over the cash.

Wrestling and the Olympics

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    Although not directly tied to MMA, amateur wrestling has been a major feeder system into the sport. Many prominent wrestlers who have achieved success on the mats have transitioned over to MMA.

    When the IOC decided to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics, the MMA community lit up with a fire to defend the sport. Even athletes across other sports came to the defense of wrestling.

    It seemed ridiculous to get rid of wrestling, considering the history behind wrestling and the Olympic Games. It eventually became clear this had the smell of backstage politics.

    However, eventually the IOC realized its mistake and reinstated wrestling to the 2020 Olympics.

    It's good that everything worked out in the end, but one good positive that came out of the story is the increased awareness in the sport of wrestling. Promotions like Agon sprouted up to feature wrestling matchups between current and past national champions.

Ben Askren Signing with ONE FC

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    Ben Askren may have not achieved as widespread acclaim as his former Bellator counterpart Hector Lombard, but it’s hard to think of anyone outside of Lombard and Eddie Alvarez as being so associated with the Bellator brand.

    Askren entered Bellator after stringing together three straight wins to begin his career after a much heralded amateur wrestling career. Despite being one-dimensional in his approach, he found success during his tenure with the promotion.

    He became the Bellator welterweight champion at Bellator 33 and kept the belt until his last bout at Bellator 97. His final showing at Bellator 97 was as one-sided as a fight could be, with Askren landing 248 strikes to his opponent’s three.

    After the bout, his contract was up, and it was all but assumed that he’d sign on the dotted line for the UFC. Such was not the case, as Dana White scoffed at the idea of signing him, telling the fighter he should sign with the World Series of Fighting instead.

    The two sides engaged in a battle of words, each attempting to gain leverage in the public eye over the other. MMA fans too got in on the action, arguing for and against Askren's participation in the UFC.

    On one hand, Askren’s amateur wrestling career, combined with his success in Bellator, should have made it a no-brainer decision for the UFC. On the other hand, he has shown to be nothing more than a one-dimensional fighter with a fighting style that isn’t the most crowd-pleasing.

    When the dust finally settled, he stunned the MMA world by signing with ONE FC, which has become the face of Asian MMA. Askren then expressed his discontent with the “bald-headed fat man,” who did not allow Askren the chance to prove he’s the best.

    He got a good deal in terms of money for going to ONE FC and figures to encounter very beatable opponents during his time in Asia.

Duane Ludwig and Team Alpha Male

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    “The Bang Effect” was a popular headline among MMA websites in 2013 and for good reason.

    Duane “Bang” Ludwig made the transition from fighter to coach as he joined Team Alpha Male, which is home to UFC stars like Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes.

    Ludwig’s impact was immediately felt (especially by Team Alpha Male’s opponents), as Faber, Mendes and Joseph Benavidez were knocking people out at every opportunity. The stats don’t lie: Many Team Alpha Male products transformed themselves from primarily grapplers to dangerous strikers in 2013.

    His success as a coach in 2013 has made him a no-brainer for Coach of the Year for many MMA news outlets. Despite Benavidez failing to capture the flyweight title, Ludwig still has a few chances to add "world champion trainer" to his resume when Faber faces Renan Barao at UFC 169. Mendes is also within arm’s reach of another UFC title shot.

Brain Damage, Weight Cuts and Fighter Safety

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    2013 saw a rise in the awareness of safety and the sport of MMA. Dana White (and others) have been quick to claim MMA is a safe sport. White went so far as to claim MMA is the safest sport in terms of concussions and head injury.

    But that hasn’t stopped the quest for knowledge for both fans and fighters alike. Articles about brain safety and weight cuts popped up throughout the year. The sport even saw a fighter die as a result of complications from weight cutting.

    With concussions and athlete safety becoming increasingly hot topics in other major sports, it was only natural that MMA would be put under a microscope as well. The sport is still too young for accurate studies to be made, but at the very least, it’s nice to see interest in the topics for use in the future.

    There’s no right or wrong answer in terms of weight cutting right now because it’s so ingrained in the sport of MMA. Suggestions such as same-day weigh-ins and double weigh-ins (weighing-in the day before and the day of a fight) have been suggested, but it would be hard to change the culture of the sport overnight.

    Head trauma have been played a role in Georges St-Pierre’s decision. In a combat sport, head trauma is something every competitor is aware of and accepts as part of the job. That part of the sport won’t be going anywhere, but hopefully more research can be done to continue to reduce the amount of damage taken over the course of an MMA career.

TRT

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    One of the dark clouds that hovered over the MMA landscape for 2013 was the talk of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). The treatment had been made famous by Chael Sonnen in years prior but rose to even greater heights of infamy with a number of high-profile fighters using the treatmen in 2013.

    The most visible user was Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort.

    The Brazilian has effectively become the face of the anti-TRT movement among fans for a number of reasons. Part of it is that he seems to say the all the wrong things (and this) while looking incredibly different pre and post TRT.

    Dana White had a huge rant about TRT earlier in the year, saying TRT is a way for people to cheat.

    Antonio Silva’s failed post-fight test following an epic battle with Mark Hunt highlights how TRT can cause an uproar even if it was an honest mistake (which it may have been). TRT has become equivalent to bringing up religion or politics for MMA fans in 2013.

    With TRT being legal at the moment, there is no shortage of fighters looking to utilize the medical treatment, but fans will associate it with a negative mindset when it leads to success in the cage. Fighters who are using TRT may want to keep it under wraps as long as possible to maintain a good standing with the public.

Georges St-Pierre Walks Away

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    The suspense surrounding Georges St-Pierre’s future was one of the biggest stories in 2013.

    After a tough fight against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, St-Pierre seemed to indicate he wanted to retire or take a leave of absence in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.

    Dana White’s now infamous post-fight rant didn’t clear the matter. It merely added another wrinkle to a story that had many fans reaching out across the MMA landscape to blast White for his unprofessional behavior.

    St-Pierre seemed to be suffering from some head injuries as he complained about not being able to sleep or remember portions of his fights. It put a whole new perspective on GSP's decision to potentially give up his MMA career.

    Fans were still without a clear-cut answer following UFC 167, which only led to more speculation. Celebrity gossip site TMZ claimed that an unplanned pregnancy and family issues were causing GSP's career to become unglued. The story even introduced St-Pierre’s mentor Kristof Midoux to MMA fans. White wasn’t exactly thrilled with Midoux’s presence in the situation and compared him to “one of the new Kardashian sisters.”

    The rumors continued until GSP finally spilled the beans.

    During a media call, the UFC welterweight champion announced he was stepping away for a while. He said he had to resolve some personal issues and didn’t have the fire to go through another training camp right now.

    Subsequently, Hendricks and Robbie Lawler were paired up to decide the next UFC welterweight champ, and fans were left wondering if UFC 167 was the last time they would see GSP in the Octagon.

Ronda Rousey and the Rise of Women's MMA

25 of 25

    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    2013 featured a major shift in the world of MMA. Men have dominated the sport for virtually all of its existence (at least in North America), but that changed with the addition of a women’s bantamweight division in the UFC.

    Finally, women had the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of the sport and have an ultimate goal in mind when beginning their MMA careers.

    This was due in large part to Dana White’s (professional) affection for Ronda Rousey.

    Although Rousey wasn’t the first star in women’s MMA, she did come along at exactly the right time. Her crossover appeal, combined with an affinity for armbars in the cage, made her one of the more marketable fighters among men and women.

    It wasn’t all Rousey, however.

    Invicta FC deserves credit for pushing women’s MMA in 2013. The promotion featured all-female fights and helped make many of their fighters into household names for those who follow women’s MMA.

    2013 saw women compete on The Ultimate Fighter for the first time in the show’s history and saw the first UFC pay-per-view to be headlined by women when Rousey took on Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.

    The UFC also chose to expand its roster by adding a women’s strawweight division and signing 11 women from Invicta FC. They will compete on an upcoming season of TUF in which the first UFC women’s strawweight champion will be crowned.

    Never before (even when Gina Carano was the main star) has women’s MMA been so prevalent in the sport. WMMA still has its detractors, and it’s true that women fighting isn’t for everyone. But for those who do enjoy it, 2013 provided more than enough excitement with The Ultimate Fighter and the Rousey vs. Miesha Tate rivalry.

    With women’s MMA growing at a tremendous rate, expect to see the women rise to prominence in 2014.

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